S/Court affirms conviction of ex-Bank PHB CEO’s 6-year jail term

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Francis Atuche, ex-CEO, defunct BankPHB

After 13 years of back and forth, the Supreme Court, on Friday, confirmed the conviction and sentencing of former Managing Director of the now-defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche.

Delivering judgment, Justice Moore Adumein, held that the court found no grounds to overturn the decision of the lower courts.

It added that Atuche did not challenge the trial court and the Court of Appeal’s assessment of his credibility.

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The court, based on its past rulings, emphasized that if a trial court’s assessment of a party or witness aligns with the presented documentary evidence, an appellate court should not interfere with that decision.

It would be recalled that in 2011, the Atuche, alongside his wife, Elizabeth, and the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer, Ugo Anyanwu Ugo, faced charges from the EFCC before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos High Court.

They faced charges related to a N25.7 billion fraud, with Justice Okunnu delivering a lengthy 12-hour judgment on June 16, 2021.

Atuche and former Chief Financial Officer Ugo Anyanwu were found guilty on 21 of the 27 counts of conspiracy to commit a felony and stealing by the EFCC.

Justice Okunnu ruled that the EFCC had convincingly proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Atuche received a 12-year sentence, and Anyanwu 10 years initially, which was later reduced by the Court of Appeal to six years for Atuche and eight years for Anyanwu.

Elizabeth Atuche was acquitted as the EFCC couldn’t establish her involvement in the crime.

The court stressed that suspicion alone cannot substitute for concrete evidence.

The court said that the prosecution failed to prove that she knew the source of the funds in her account from her husband or had authority over the transactions.

The convicts were set to serve their prison terms at the Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Facility in Lagos.

After appealing the judgment, the Court of Appeal confirmed the convictions on June 23, 2022.

The apex court has now reduced Atuche’s sentence to six years concurrently, not 12 years, while Anyanwu’s term was decreased from 10 to eight years.

The Supreme Court, had earlier this year, heard arguments from Senior Advocates of Nigeria in Mr Atuche’s appeal against his conviction.

The court’s unanimous decision  marks the conclusion of a legal battle that spanned over thirteen years.

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